The Vanier Cup has never been held in London, Ontario … until now. Western University, the Mustangs, and the City of London are ecstatic to be hosting the Canadian university football championship this year, and you’re not going to want to miss it!
Set for November 26 at Western Alumni Stadium (kickoff at 1:00pm), the 2022 Canada Life Vanier Cup will feature the top two university football teams in the country battling to become the 2022 national champion – and earn the right to hoist the prestigious Vanier Cup.
One of the most storied sporting events in Canada, the Vanier Cup has been contested by thousands of athletes and watched by millions of fans over its 57-year history. How did it come to be? How do teams qualify? What makes it unique among university sporting championships? Read on to learn more – and get prepared for this year’s 2022 Canada Life Vanier Cup in London, Ontario!
When this year’s teams take the field at Western Alumni Stadium Nov. 26 – in front of what’s shaping up to be a sold-out crowd – it will be the 57th time the Vanier Cup has been contested. The first? 1965.
Previous attempts at staging a Canadian interuniversity football championship had been made, including in 1959 when this year’s host, Western University, and UBC played for a ‘Canadian championship.’ But a true national championship didn’t take hold until the mid-1960s.
That’s when Peter Gorman, a Toronto businessman, spearheaded the event. That first national championship, an invitational game in 1965, was dubbed the Canadian College Bowl. It had a charitable component, partnering with the Canadian Save the Children Fund, who asked and received permission from Georges P. Vanier, Canada’s Governor General at the time (1959-67), to name the award in his honour.
For the first two years, 1965 and 1966, the championship was by invitation only, with a national panel choosing the two teams to play (similar to U.S. college bowl games). The first two champs? The University of Toronto and St. Francis Xavier University, respectively.
But a major change happened in 1967. The Canadian College Bowl was accepted by U Sports (at the time, the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletics Union – CIAU) and designated as the body’s official national championship football game. A playoff system was put in place and the game was contested by western and eastern semi-final winners. In 1982, the Canadian College Bowl adopted its new name (the name of its trophy) – the Vanier Cup.
From its beginnings in 1965 until 2003, it was easy to know where the Vanier Cup was being played – it was held in Toronto. The national championship football game was played at Varsity Stadium 21 of its first 24 years (it was held at CNE Stadium from 1973-75), and then at Rogers Centre (then known as the SkyDome) from 1989 to 2003.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2004, the 40th playing of the Vanier Cup, that the event was held outside of Toronto. That year, and the following year, Hamilton hosted the event. Since U Sports opened the game for bidding from other cities and schools, the championship has been held in Quebec City seven times, Hamilton five times, Toronto twice, and once each in Montreal, Saskatoon and Vancouver. London will become just the seventh city to host a Vanier Cup in its 57 years.
There are 27 teams currently competing in U Sports football. Which is the winningest program in Vanier Cup history? That would be the Laval Rouge et Or, who have won the national championship 10 times – all since 1999. That’s an impressive 10 titles in 22 tries (like most sporting events, the Vanier Cup was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Laval’s most recent win? That came in 2018, when they defeated the Western Mustangs, 34-20, on their home field.
It is the Mustangs, however, who have appeared in the most Vanier Cups (15), winning eight of those games. And they’re the defending champs, having beaten the Saskatchewan Huskies, 27-21, in Quebec City last December. Eighteen different teams have won the Vanier Cup over the years, with the Calgary Dinos (5), Queen’s Gaels (4) and UBC Thunderbirds (4) among the other top schools.
The Vanier Cup is contested by the winners of the Mitchell Bowl and the Uteck Bowl, the two national semi-final games. In order to get to those games, teams need to come out on top in their respective regional conferences (there are four in Canada): Canada West; OUA (Ontario University Athletics); RSEQ (Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec); and AUS (Atlantic University Sport).
It is the champions of each of these four conferences that face off in the national semi-final games. Teams across the country play an eight-game regular season schedule, from late August to late October, followed by conference playoffs (late October through November), that decide the winners that advance to the Uteck and Mitchell Bowls.
This year, the Uteck Bowl will feature the winners of the Canada West conference and AUS Conference (hosted by AUS team), and the Mitchell Bowl will be contested by the champions of the RSEQ and OUA (with the OUA winner hosting).
It is a grueling journey to the Vanier Cup, to be sure, and the winner standing at the end – the one hoisting the Vanier Cup – is well-deserving of the award. And the opportunity to engrave their school’s name and colours on the historic trophy? That is priceless.
When it was announced this summer that London would host the Vanier Cup for the first time ever this fall, the city immediately became abuzz in football.
Western has hosted big games in its history, of course, including a trio in the 1970s – the Forest City Bowl in 1976 and 1977, and the Central Bowl in 1974, played at J.W. Little Stadium. More recently, at Western Alumni Field (formerly TD Stadium), the Mustangs hosted Mitchell Bowls in 2008, 2018 and 2021. But hosting a Vanier Cup? This will be the biggest, most high-profile university football game ever played in the city.
Western University, the City of London, and Tourism London joined forces to earn the honours of hosting the prestigious game in the Forest City, and they’re working together to put on a great show for fans.
That means not only an exciting on-field display of the best university football in the country, but it also means festivities before the big game on November 26. Folks can attend a FanFest outside of Western Alumni Stadium on game day. Oh, and don’t forget about a special halftime show that is sure to entertain fans of all ages.
It seems a perfect time for the Mustangs to host – certainly to show off the 21-year-old Stadium’s recent $5-million renovation, which included, most notably, the installation of a brand-new field surface. It has been looking spiffy all summer and fall, where not only Western has played, but also the London Junior Mustangs youth football program during the summer months.
London is a football town, after all, with organizations like the London Minor Football Association (LMFA), the aforementioned Jr. Mustangs, high-calibre high school football teams, and the London Beefeaters junior football program all playing out of the Forest City.
Playoffs are happening, teams across the country are vying for a spot in the 2022 Canada Life Vanier Cup, and excitement is building for this year’s national championship game. Have you got your tickets yet? General Admission tickets, on either the East or West Grandstands, are available for $25.00. Ticket prices include access to FanFest, the official Vanier Cup pre-game tailgate party at Western Alumni Stadium. Don't miss out ! Get your tickets now by clicking here.
But make sure you’re in your seat (or on the edge of it) by 1:00pm for kickoff to watch the final two teams standing on November 26 – and battling for the 2022 national championship title and the honour of lifting the prestigious Vanier Cup.
This article was produced by Gameday London. You can visit them at www.gamedaylondon.com.
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